Who's In It: Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama, Nicholas D'Agosto, Adriana Barraza
The Basics: Nora (Camilla Belle) and Mary (Alexa Vega) are two very different sisters. We know this because Nora is in a library with her nose buried in a book and Mary can barely carry all of her shopping bags to her SUV during the opening credits. Since this is a story inspired by Sense and Sensibility, the viewer is prepared for the death of the girls' father--what no one could foresee is that it would be during a dance scene while a mariachi band plays "Cielito Lindo." So begins the story, which takes newly-destitute Latinas Nora and Mary all the way from Beverly Hills to East LA, where they learn that their outrageous stereotyping and lack of cooking skills is keeping them from leading a fulfilling life. There is much heartbreak, connecting with their heritage, and making out with cute boys, and soon the balance of life is restored.
What's The Deal: There is nothing new in this film at all, which keeps me from giving it a spectacular rating. The first part of the film is really burdened under the weight of Mary's ignorance--oh my gosh, every Mexican man on the street is either a gardener or a gang member, and ALL poor people eat is carbs! Once we get past that tiresome hyperbole, the film has more room to breathe and is pretty charming--but the stereotypes don't disappear completely. Belle and Vega are good as sisters, although I could not get past the peculiar mystic tan they seemed to give Camilla "Gringa" Belle. When she cries in the movie I got distracted looking for the streak marks that were sure to appear on her cheeks (they didn't, so thanks makeup department). The ensemble is engaging enough, with Wilmer Valderrama playing a soulful gangsta artist, Nicholas D'Agosto being precious, and Adriana Barraza showing up every once in awhile to pep things up.
Jane Austen fans, Beware: This is a really LOOSE adaptation of the book. Free of the shackles of uptight Victorian intrigue of the 1800's, this movie has to figure out how to be interesting and only half succeeds. No illegitimate kids, family reconciliations, or crass cousins? No problem. Just have a female gang member threaten to beat Alexa Vega up. Later, have someone make a Frida Kahlo joke. Problem…solved?
Potential Sequel Alert: Just before dad croaks, the gardener honors him by shaping a shrub into the likeness of a man (because that's what people expect to see when they show up at a Beverly Hills birthday party). Just when you think its time in the film is done, Boom! It shows up again! And again! I almost listed it as an actor in the film! And I was so delighted to see ShrubDad, I suggest he get his own movie. I would rather watch that than another Alien vs. Predator flick for sure.